This movie was hard to watch but I just couldn’t stop watching.
Nocturnal Animals is the film adaptation of the 1993 novel “Tony & Susan” written by Austin Wright. I didn’t know what the book was about and was probably too young to care back then. While the stellar cast is reason enough to watch the film, it’s Tom Ford that made me want to watch it. This is just Ford’s second film (A Single Man, being his directorial debut), but he has shown a distinct filmmaking style, reminiscent of David Fincher, though much more deliberate and artsy. Nocturnal Animals is part art film, part thriller, and 100% provocative.
Nineteen years after her divorce, Susan (Amy Adams) receives a proof copy of a novel “Nocturnal Animals” written by her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), which was dedicated to her. It’s surprising to Susan considering that they have not spoken since their divorce, when Ed was still struggling to write a book. Susan was a complete jerk (and a cheat) to Ed during their marriage and even hates him for being unambitious and weak.
When Susan reads the book, the movie splits into two narrative lines: the real-world and the fictional. Both worlds are seen from Susan’s point of view, so it reveals so much about her feelings of guilt and unhappiness.
In the fictional world, Tony, his wife Laura (Isla Fisher), and daughter India are terrorized by three men led by a man named Ray (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). It’s important to point out that Susan “casts” Edward as Tony, but the wife is someone else.
The events in the fictional story are so terrifying because they show how helpless Tony was when the men took his wife and daughter, and did some horrible things to them. Texas lawman Bobby (Michael Shannon) helps track down the psychotic criminals.
Susan is deeply affected by the fictional story that something stirs inside her. She feels the guilt and she begins to acknowledge her mistakes, more so, her unhappiness. With these feelings, she re-examines herself and finally gets the courage to contact Edward and arranges to meet him. Edward does not show up. This broke her heart, pretty much the same way she broke his. And it becomes clear that the film is a story of revenge (though not in the form that we’re accustomed to).
Nocturnal Animals is a sensory overload with lots of themes and symbolism. It’s a real thriller but also a cautionary tale of what could happen when you push people you love away. This is definitely an addition to my all time best movie list. It’s a shame that the film got the Oscar snub (except for Michael Shannon who is nominated for best supporting actor).
Now I’m off to buy the book.
You can buy the book at Book Depository with free delivery worldwide.